In a statement, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje warned that volcanic eruptions and wildfires pose serious hazards not only to human population but also to the surrounding natural ecosystems the DENR must protect and preserve.
"We have to be ready for potential wildfires, including whatever intervention may be needed to protect natural ecosystems that are highly vulnerable to catastrophic damage the volcanic explosion may cause," Paje
also ordered local forestry officials to ensure the protection of the seedlings to be planted at the foot of Mount Mayon under the Aquino
administration's National Greening Program (NGP), particularly those within the 76,770-hectare Quinale watershed that traverses the base of the volcano and includes some areas within the six-kilometer permanent danger zone.
said the watershed area is an NGP priority in Albay due to its importance to the province's irrigation needs and agricultural activities, as well as in terms of flood prevention especially in the towns of Oas, Polangui and Libon and the city of Ligao.
There are at least 81 NGP sites in the province covering some 5,269 hectares of forestland, which are being maintained by the DENR
in collaboration with civil society groups and host communities in the cities of Legazpi, Tabaco and Ligao, and the towns of Camalig, Daraga, Guinobatan and Sto.
has also directed the executive director of DENR-Region 5
to tap the various Regional Forest Fire Respondent Teams (RFFRTs) "should the situation calls for their services."
said the DENR
will also tap beneficiaries of the community-based forest management projects in Albay to establish fire and green breaks.
"Stakeholders such as forest-based communities are better able to deal immediately with fire emergencies.
Their services will help us respond quickly when fire breaks out in remote places," Paje
said the DENR
provides science-based fire management training to members of people's organizations.
The creation of RFFRTs is a result of an agreement forged last July between the DENR-Region 5
office and the BFP
The DENR-BFP anti-forest fire partnership "underscores the pro-active stance the DENR
is aggressively pursuing in forest fire prevention which is central to sustaining the gains we have achieved so far in NGP," Paje